Paper Pioneer Spicer: An epilogue [with photo gallery]

Categories: Sports
Introducing No. 40 ...
Image courtesy of Rebecca Allen
(To read Part 1 of this piece, "Pioneers sign Spicer to one-week contract," please click here).

The admonishing hymn came with blunt regularity: "Don't get yourself killed."

More than a month after my semi-pro debut was quashed due to the U.P. Arctic Blast's cancellation in travel plans, the St. Paul Pioneers re-upped my services for their second-to-last regular season contest, a rematch versus the Minnesota Phoenix, whom the Pioneers crushed 61-0 in the teams' initial meet back in mid-May.

In the two months since that contest, the Phoenix evidenced some rise while St. Paul showed some settle.  From a standings vantage point: The Phoenix evened their record at 2-2 before dropping two straight heading into the rematch at 2-4. The Pioneers? After the U.P. forfeit, the team ran their record to 3-0, then suffered back-to-back losses (by a combined six points) before rebounding with a steady 36-14 win over Rochester prior to their Independence Day bye week.

But a small sense of malaise had no doubt gripped this bunch by the time of my return to their circle. Whereas the early June practice featured a focused, well-attended game prep,  merely half the Pioneers' roster showed when I returned mid-summer for a chalk talk that sought to prepare for the Phoenix' offense on a night that favored Jim Walsh's pen over Pioneer pads.

So it was that -- among the fewer than 30 present -- I was able to accrue an interception in 7-on-7 drills from my spot in the d-backfield.

The lesser merits of sport at this level ("Welcome to semi-pro football," I was offered with sarcastic regularity) were soon to segue to my arrival to Humboldt High for the Saturday game. With the onset of hail soon to paint the gloomy pre-game, both teams were forced to dress in creative confines as the school contact neglected to open access to the locker rooms. Bitching ensued from the Phoenix contingent and it appeared for a brief spell that, as with my initial attempt, a second crack at game action might not be.

Paper Pioneer 8.jpg
Image courtesy of Rebecca Allen
Donning #40, I stretched and went through a varied pre-game routine with the Pioneers while a modest fan base arrived, and the impasse eventually was assuaged. With the contest starting 45 minutes behind schedule and Head Coach Mark Heiser absent with a fever, Walsh led the Pioneers on the field and in short time the "P-Unit" had regained both the focus and intensity I'd witnessed a month previous en route to grabbing an early 14-0 lead. While the Phoenix collected a series of unsportsmanlike penalties, the composed, efficient (and really damn athletic) Pioneers took a 21-0 lead into half time.

As for #40? Well, aside from a P.A. announcement as to my presence (which I silently suspected may put a target on my back), I saw no action in these first two quarters. Nor would I debut in the third. And I'd be lying if I said that the waiting didn't get the butterflies swooping through the gut. With the Pioneers pulling away, I knew my opportunity was nearing, but the sensation is akin to waiting to give a speech before a sizable crowd, except with the added knowledge that myriad audience members are trained to sock you in the mouth. (Photo gallery after the jump.)

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